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Lately I have been thinking a lot about what drives change in society (and in technology in particular). One observation the discussion of Web 2.0 has gifted us with, is that while it has nurtured remix to occur at an unprecedented rate, the very process of remixing is nothing new, it is actually at the core of what creativity is: copying, transforming, and combining. There are many reasons for why this is the predominant way of human creativity, one of which is that this way of pursuing creativity is a win-win game: others share with you; you enhance their ideas; you give back. So, in other words, everyone benefits from everyone, and creativity becomes more than the sum of ideas entering the process.

I know this is oversimplifying things, but, if anything, history seems to support such a view of human creativity and progress.

Which brings me to another question, and that question, I think, lies at the core of it all: could it be different? Could we create differently? Is this way of creating (copy, transform, combine) determined by the very fabric of how our brains work (individually and collectively)?  The way our brain works is of course a product of evolution, so at least the cognitive basic modules of creativity are a product of evolution. But that does not mean these modules could not be combined in different ways. After all, we can use our brains to express ourselves in widely different languages such a Chinese, Inuit, and Modal Logics.

As usual, just looking at the mechanisms giving rise to phenomenon is not enough, one also needs to analyse the structure and, most importantly, the environment this phenomenon operates in. So far I have not reached an even intermediate conclusion to these questions. In other words: to be continued.

P.S.: Hat tip to Kirby Ferguson, who’s beautiful video series about remix invigorated my thinking about this topic.